My short, white Irish grandmother made the best tortillas! It seems a little strange she would be a connoisseur of this Mexican staple. This is her recipe.
If Grandma was making these tortillas, I would hang around to “help” her. Mostly I just want to eat the warm, delicious, tender- yet chewy goodness, called the tortilla.
To start, mix 5 cups of flour with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
Then add 1/2 cup of lard, but my grandmother said you could use shortening.
Mix with your hands until the shortening is broken into very small pieces. (Not big pieces like when you make pie crust- I want the pieces to almost be invisible.)
Now slowly add the warm water. Your hands are already messy from mixing in the shortening, so just use your fingers.
Add just a little water in the middle of the flour mixture at a time. Add water, mix with fingers, add water, mix with fingers.
I usually add more water at the end. One and one half cup just doesn’t seem to be enough. All the flour should be incorporated.
This needs more mixing.
The dough will be sticky. Really sticky!
Sprinkle flour onto your clean counter. Add your sticky ball of dough.
Tortillas need to be sticky because the water will turn into steam and cause the flour to rise. The tortillas also need lots of gluten to form the bubbles. Lots of kneading = Lots of gluten.
Set the timer for 5 minutes and start kneading. Otherwise, it will feel like 50 minutes, but it will only be two minutes. Good tortillas need lots of kneading.
Keep kneading! Just use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter or your hands.
The dough will be soft and smooth when you are finished.
Now add a belly button to your ball of dough. That was the most important step for ReeRee.
Next, put a piece of wax paper and a towel over your dough. Let it “rest” for 20 minutes. Otherwise, you will roll out the dough and it will shrink back to its original size. Too bad pregnancy didn’t work that way.
Make 20 balls of uniform size.
Also cover these with the wax paper and towel to keep them from drying out. We need that moisture for a good tortilla!
Pinch the balls to flatten them.
The most frustrating part (for me) is next. You MUST roll the tortilla paper-thin. I have not found an easy way to do this, just keep rolling.
Don’t beat yourself up if the tortillas aren’t a perfect circle!
Now the tortilla is ready to cook. If you have an electric skillet, set the skillet to 400 degrees. I have a gas stove and set my heat just past 3. The flame looks like this:
I always make my first tortilla too thick- it is rigid. Towards the end, my tortillas look like tissue paper and are perfect.
Cook the tortilla until bubbles form. You will need to adjust your heat, so the tortilla form bubbles without burning the other side.
My daughter thought her tortilla looked like a ghost. It really did!
Flip when golden brown on the first side.
You want light brown bubbles. But you can scrape off the burnt parts and smother them in salsa- you can hardly taste the char.
Homemade tortillas should be cooled on a wire rack. Store in a ziploc bag. They also freeze well.
I will half this recipe, but I will never double it! You will be rolling tortillas for a decade! I wish I had an electric tortilla flattener, but I haven’t found one that works well yet.
Enjoy! Make into beef and bean burritos. Reheat on the skillet and spread butter, cinnamon and sugar on them. Lots of yummy ways to eat them.
Homemade Tortillas by my Irish Grandmother
5 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup lard (or white shortening)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of warm water
Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add lard and cut into flour mixture, until the lard is in very small pieces. Add enough warm water to make a soft dough (add a little at a time and mix). Note: I usually have to add more warm water to get the right texture (maybe 1/4 cup more).
Knead for 5-7 minutes, adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking. Rest the dough for 20 minutes. Form into 20 balls. Roll out VERY thin.
Cook at 400 degrees on a skillet (or medium heat). Turn when the tortilla forms bubbles. Cool on a wire rack.